Keeping in mind that the number one reason kids play sports is to have fun and make friends, make your
practices incorporate this. Stop all drills and “working” on skills and start playing games that the kids will love
while developing the skills they need.
Come with a plan. Come to every practice with a plan and be willing to vary from that plan as you see the
response of the kids. When coaching the youngest kids (5-8) learn from every K-grade 3 teacher. Most
teachers of this age group will tell you that they spend a majority of the time in the first week or two just
teaching class routines. The children learn classroom jobs, where things go, where to sit, how to move from
one activity to the next and all the other social skills that create community and order. They would also remind
you that this age child has a very short attention span. Get their attention quickly, make them stay focused for
15 minutes or less, and then move on to another activity.
Discipline. Just because you are committed to making practices fun does not mean that you should forget
discipline. Sports have rules that players need to learn and respect. Start teaching that in practice by
expecting the players to respect and follow practice rules. Having rules that all players follow will create a
safer practice environment, a sense of community and a sense of control for the players. You don’t need
many rules, but a few good rules will go a long way in making it easier for everyone to have a positive
Make everything a game. The kids are playing sports to have fun. They do not come to practice at this age to
"work" on anything. They are there to have fun with their friends and your goal is to get everyone wanting to
come to practice. To improve your practices, replace many of the drills with skill building practice games
instead. Having the kids play skill-based games in practice will improve their skills, build their fitness and
increase the energy of practice. Your players will start playing at full speed, they will be playing with a
competitive spirit, the situations will be more game like, and they will be having more fun. See the Skill
Building Games section for specific games for your sport.
Expectations of skill games and drills. When conducting a skill building practice game or a drill for the first
time, make sure your expectations are in line. If you are coaching kids who have probably never done the drill
before, don’t expect to see them mastering the skill. You have to teach the drill before you can coach the skill.
For the first several times the kids do a new drill, just focus on having them understand what they are
supposed to be doing. Where do they start, where do they go, where do they kick the ball? And make it easy.
Don’t say, “Don’t run back up in the middle of the drill.” Instead, set up cones where you want them to run and
say, “Run this way after you shoot." Until this part is mastered they can not begin to master the skill. Keep
drills simple and don’t constantly teach new ones. Young kids like consistency. Use the same drill over and
over and just build on it to add new challenges.
A couple of other ideas to get the most out of your limited practice times:
- Start practice with a favorite game to increase on-time attendance and get everyone in the right spirit
from the start.
- Get the kids out of lines whenever feasible and keep the lines short when it's not.
- Make sure every child is touching the ball as many times as possible, not just the ones who excel.
- Lose the words “drill” and “working” from your vocabulary and start talking about playing games and
having fun at practice.
- Make time for team building. At the end of practice, five minutes on the playground or a game of
dribble tag with the coach may be the most memorable part of the season for some kids.
- Don’t panic that you don’t have enough time in practice. You never will. Your job is to keep them
coming back and build their love for the game. Achieve that and there will be plenty of time.
- Make sure they see YOU having fun too.
You probably already have some drills that you can turn into skill games and know some familiar children’s
games that can be used for drills. Choose a sport to find some skill games that you can use in practice.
-Baseball and Softball
|"In the earlier years,
as the kids are
beginning to develop
coordination, the hope
is that they will start to
develop skills, but the
emphasis has to be on
fun while practicing
It's Just A Game
Darrell Burnett, PH.D.
... let's not forget that.